Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

I’ll have what they’re having: Study finds social norms influence food choices

Date:
December 30, 2013
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
Is obesity a socially transmitted disease? In order to find out, researchers in the United Kingdom conducted a systematic review of several experimental studies, each of which examined whether or not providing information about other peoples’ eating habits influences food intake or choices.

Is obesity a socially transmitted disease? In order to try to find out, researchers in the United Kingdom conducted a systematic review of several experimental studies, each of which examined whether or not providing information about other peoples' eating habits influences food intake or choices. Their results are published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Related Articles


The review looked at a total of fifteen studies from eleven publications. Eight of the studies examined how information about food intake norms influenced food consumed by participants. Seven other studies reported the effects of food choice norms on how people decide what food to eat. After examining the data, investigators found consistent evidence that social norms influence food.

This meta-analysis found that if participants were given information indicating that others were making low-calorie or high-calorie food choices, it significantly increased the likelihood that participants made similar choices. Also, data indicate that social norms influence the quantity of food eaten. Additionally, the review indicated that suggesting that others eat large portions increased food intake by the participants. There was also a strong association between eating and social identity.

"It appears that in some contexts, conforming to informational eating norms may be a way of reinforcing identity to a social group, which is in line with social identity theory," explains lead investigator Eric Robinson, PhD, of the University of Liverpool. "By this social identity account, if a person's sense of self is strongly guided by their identity as a member of their local community and that community is perceived to eat healthily, then that person would be hypothesized to eat healthily in order to maintain a consistent sense of social identity."

The need to solidify our place in our social group is just one way investigators found social norms influence our food choices. The analysis also revealed that the social mechanisms that influence what we decide to consume are present even when we eat alone or are at work, whether or not we are aware of it.

"Norms influence behavior by altering the extent to which an individual perceives the behavior in question to be beneficial to them. Human behavior can be guided by a perceived group norm, even when people have little or no motivation to please other people," says Dr. Robinson. "Given that in some studies the participants did not believe that their behavior was influenced by the informational eating norms, it seems that participants may not have been consciously considering the norm information when making food choices."

Investigators caution that more research is needed, but that these types of studies can help us understand the way people make decisions about food consumption and can help shape public policy and messaging about healthy choices.

"The evidence reviewed here is consistent with the idea that eating behaviors can be transmitted socially," remarks Dr. Robinson. "Taking these points into consideration, the findings of the present review may have implications for the development of more effective public health campaigns to promote 'healthy eating.' Policies or messages that normalize healthy eating habits or reduce the prevalence of beliefs that lots of people eat unhealthily may have beneficial effects on public health."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eric Robinson, PhD; Jason Thomas; Paul Aveyard, PhD; Suzanne Higgs, PhD. What Everyone Else is Eating: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Informational Eating Norms on Eating Behavior. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, December 2013

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "I’ll have what they’re having: Study finds social norms influence food choices." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131230101442.htm>.
Elsevier. (2013, December 30). I’ll have what they’re having: Study finds social norms influence food choices. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131230101442.htm
Elsevier. "I’ll have what they’re having: Study finds social norms influence food choices." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131230101442.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

AFP (Oct. 25, 2014) — An American nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for a Liberian patient in Texas has been declared free of the virus and will leave the hospital. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Newsy (Oct. 25, 2014) — A Harvard University Research Team created genetically engineered stem cells that are able to kill cancer cells, while leaving other cells unharmed. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins